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Frank Merton Atkins, Photographer

February 6, 2021
by the gentle author

A collection of photographs by Frank Merton Atkins – including these splendid pictures of City churches – were given to the Bishopsgate Institute by his daughter Enid Ghent who had kept them in her loft since he died in 1964.

‘My father worked as a cartographer for a company of civil engineers in Westminster and he drew maps of tram lines,’ Enid recalled, ‘Both his parents were artists and he carried a camera everywhere. He loved to photograph old pubs, especially those that were about to be demolished. Sometimes he got up early in the morning to take photographs before work and at other times he went out on photography excursions in his lunch break. He was always looking around for photographs.’

Captions by Frank Merton Atkins

Christ Church, Spitalfields, 1 October 1957

All Hallows Staining Tower, 25 June 1957, 1.22pm

Cannon Street, looking west from corner of Bush Lane, 7 June 1957, 8.21am

St Botolph Aldgate, from Minories, 31 May 1960, 1.48pm

St Bride from Carter Lane, 31 May 1956, 8.20am

St Clement Danes Church, Strand, from Aldwych, 14 October 1958, 1.22pm

St Dunstan in the East (seen from pavement in front of Custom House), 13 June 1956, 1.14pm

St George Southwark, from Borough High Street, 14 August 1956, 8.15am

St James Garlickhithe, from Queenhithe, 20 May 1957, 8.23am

St Katherine Creechurch, 27 May 1957, 8.32am

St Magnus the Martyr, from the North, 26 June 1956, 8.17am

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, 26 June 1956, 8.23am

St Margaret Lothbury, 2 August 1957, 1.12pm

St Margaret Pattens, from St Mary At Hill, 13 June 1956, 1pm

St Mary Woolnoth, 8 August 1956, 5.49pm

St Pauls Church, Dock Street, Whitechapel, 3 September 1957, 1.09pm

St Pauls and St Augustine from Watling Street, 7 May 1957, 8.25am

St Vedast, from Wood Street, 30 July 1956, 8.17am

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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18 Responses leave one →
  1. February 6, 2021

    Please can you tell me if you things about battersea and southwest lono

  2. Douglas Brett permalink
    February 6, 2021

    Please, what is a ‘staining tower’? I have never come across this before.

  3. paul loften permalink
    February 6, 2021

    St George Southwark, from Borough High Street, 14 August 1956, 8.15 am. The man walking down the street beside the horse and cart, probably on his way to the office, captured not only a moment in time. For me, it brought back a generation of men, some of whom walked with a military bearing. Straight and upright with their shoulders back, It was not a cocky swagger. It was a posture carried over from the war years, drilling on parade grounds and route marches. It touched me because it brought back memories of my father. Even as a tiny figure seen from far off amongst a distant rush-hour crowd. With the same walk, I knew it was him. These men returned to civilian life managing offices, working behind desks, counters, operating machinery, laying bricks, delivering milk, and just being fathers God knows how difficult it must have been for some of them with the things they had seen and endured during those years. But here they were in the 1950s getting on with life. Going to work, striding down the street, walking just the way that they were taught to. If I ever walked with a slouch my father would correct me. Thank you GA, Frank Merton Atkins, Enid Ghent, and the Bishopsgate Institute for bringing these unforgettable photos to us.

  4. February 6, 2021

    Absolutely wonderful photographs – what a treat!

  5. Jill Wilson permalink
    February 6, 2021

    Great photos, and I love the way they are so precisely captioned with times and well as dates.

    Frank’s great grandsons are also both keen photographers. Jack specialises in taking spectacular landscape shots of his native Cornwall using a drone, while Christopher is studying photography and is keen to re-trace Frank’s footsteps as part of his college work. He would like to take pictures of London from the same places to see if any of the views remain the same and how they have changed.

    So that could be an interesting “compare and contrast” future blog!

  6. Annie Green permalink
    February 6, 2021

    I’m pretty good at spotting London locations but these caught me out – so many buildings no longer exist, hard to put the locations in context. Caught in that post-war time of re-construction. Fascinating over the first cup of tea of the day. Thanks for this.

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    February 6, 2021

    Thank you for showing us these interesting pictures. I like very much the fact that on many the exact time the picture was taken is included. Not only are the photographs a moment in time but we know when that moment was.

  8. aubrey permalink
    February 6, 2021

    The bottom photograph: building construction, filling-in the bomb sites on which we children played.

  9. Pauline Taylor permalink
    February 6, 2021

    How strange, one of the immediate things that I noticed about these photos was the posture of the men so thank you Paul Lofton for your explanation which is so accurate. These are views from the time when I spent many days in London and there was an atmosphere which has been caught so well, I also noticed a woman wearing what we called jigger jackets, I remember mine very well, and the length of our skirts which can be seen here, no mini skirts then !! I love the horse and cart which brought back vivid memories of being woken up in the morning by the clip clop of the horse that pulled the milkman’s cart in Hendon where I stayed with friends. The milkman always used to come in for a cup of tea and would stay for a chat while the horse had his bait outside and a bit of a rest, Days seemed so much longer then !! Thank you GA and Frank Merton Atkins’ daughter for sharing these evocative images with us.

  10. February 6, 2021

    Thank you for the photos, all taken around my date of birth. What a wonderful time in London! It’s a decade after the war and people are showing themselves very relaxed in these new times. — paul loften put it wonderfully in his comment.

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  11. February 6, 2021

    As a teen, in 1985-86, when Broad Street Station was being demolished I acquired a Sun Street Passage street lamp from the CoL Corporation, identical to the one in ‘St Bride from Carter Lane, 31 May 1956, 8.20am’. I electrified it and put it on the back wall of my parent’s house. It is now in its fourth displaced home, still with my original wiring.
    The Cannon Street D&P sign is remarkably precise, and I wonder what the next shop along did with your headaches.

  12. Philip Marriage permalink
    February 6, 2021

    A remarkable collection and so good to know they are being preserved.

    Frank’s great grandson Christopher’s idea to retake these scenes today will make a fascinating contrast.

  13. Claire Weiss permalink
    February 6, 2021

    Spectacular! In addition to the featured churches – some of them centuries old – many of the photographs also capture icons of the fifties in the shape of human activity and appearance, means of transport and commercial art. Thank you very much for issuing these!

  14. Linda Granfield permalink
    February 6, 2021

    These shots of construction are quite a contrast to the steel ribs we see rising in the sky now.
    Your facadism book, GA, comes to mind.
    Here, though, we see London rebuilding after the war. The St. Vedast photo (the last one) truly brings the scale of destruction to our attention. Thank you.

  15. Geri Caruso permalink
    February 6, 2021

    Someone probably already noted this but I think these may be Christopher Wren remakes after the London fire…

  16. Mark permalink
    February 6, 2021

    Everything about these photos is great.
    Apart from the churches.
    Some very elegant women captured in these wonderful images.
    Loving Harold Steptoes rival.
    Essense of 50s life captured.

  17. Douglas Brett permalink
    February 6, 2021

    According to Wikipedia ‘staining’ refers to it being built of stone and to differentiate from the other all hallows churches which were of timber.

  18. Cherub permalink
    February 8, 2021

    I too am left wondering what the shop did with your headaches 🙂

    I worked in the City, near Cannon St from the 80s – early 90s, it was a lot more modern then. My last visit to London was about 8 years ago, I stayed just off Cannon St for 4 nights and didn’t recognise it – I guess that’s progress for you!

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